Skip to main content

Refugees in search of peace in New Year: They flee war and hunger, are forced to leave homelands as they have no choice

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
A new year has just dawned! To the hoots of sirens and the blasts of trumpets, to firework displays and the singing of Auld Lang Syne the world bade goodbye to 2017 and welcomed yet another year. As one looked back the past year, there was certainly much to be thankful for. Our good God continued to rain down his blessings in abundance to all. Yes, tragedies and suffering continued to be the lot of many too.
Sadly many of the tragedies, which affected millions across the globe, though referred to as natural calamities, are in reality man-made caused by greed, over- consumption, wanton destruction of the eco-systems and over-exploitation of natural resources. Above all, war and violence continued to rule the roost; peace in 2017 remained as elusive as ever.
Come 2018 the world will continue to pursue peace. It will not be easy by any count. Despotic leaders, who seem to revel in war and violence, control a good part of the world today. They constantly search for the enemy very often far away from their own shores. The military-industrial complex has reaped rich profits (drenched in blood) in the recent past. Some economies thrive when wars continue elsewhere. Then there are those countries, which continuously display an arrogance doing what they want, aggravating violence and tension in other parts of the world, despite UN resolutions or the common understanding of most other countries.
It is therefore fitting that for the fifty-first time, the Catholic Church celebrates New Year Day as the World Day of Peace with a universal call for substantial action in the pursuit of peace. This year the message of Pope Francis is based on the theme Migrants and refugees: men and women in search of peace. Given the challenges that most migrants and refugees face today the message is not merely relevant, it is an urgent call to action. The message begins with the words, Peace to all people and to all nations on earth! Peace, which the angels proclaimed to the shepherds on Christmas night, is a profound aspiration for everyone, for each individual and all peoples, and especially for those who most keenly suffer its absence. Pope Francis making it very clear that his message is addressed to all, that peace is something we all long for and above all, there are people in this world like migrants and refugees who are deprived of it.
He goes on to say that migrants and refugees are also genuinely in search of peace. They flee war and hunger, or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands -- because they have no choice. They long for a more stable, safe and secure environment in which they can live peacefully, with dignity, equity and liberty. These are, as Pope Francis says, men and women, children, young and elderly people, who are searching for somewhere to live in peace. In order to find that peace, they are willing to risk their lives on a journey that is often long and perilous, to endure hardships and suffering, and to encounter fences and walls built to keep them far from their goal.
His message of peace is a call to embrace them in a spirit of compassion. He goes on to add, We know that it is not enough to open our hearts to the suffering of others. Much more remains to be done before our brothers and sisters can once again live peacefully in a safe home. Welcoming others requires concrete commitment, a network of assistance and goodwill, vigilant and sympathetic attention, the responsible management of new and complex situations that at times compound numerous existing problems, to say nothing of resources, which are always limited. By practising the virtue of prudence, government leaders should take practical measures to welcome, promote, protect, integrate and, within the limits allowed by a correct understanding of the common good, to permit [them] to become part of a new society.
In the face of growing xenophobia, racism, jingoism and exclusiveness, Pope Francis highlights the fact that migrants and refugees contribute significantly to the societies, which accept them; besides when host communities transcend bigotry, there is mutual enrichment. When we turn that (contemplative) gaze to migrants and refugees, we discover that they do not arrive empty-handed. They bring their courage, skills, energy and aspirations, as well as the treasures of their own cultures; and in this way, they enrich the lives of the nations that receive them. We also come to see the creativity, tenacity and spirit of sacrifice of the countless individuals, families and communities around the world who open their doors and hearts to migrants and refugees, even where resources are scarce.
Pope Francis makes a fervent appeal to all to mainstream what he refers to as the Four mileposts for action: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate migrants and refugees. Offering asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and victims of human trafficking an opportunity to find the peace they seek requires a strategy combining four actions: welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating. He goes on to provide explanations of how these mileposts for action can be realized practically.
Finally, in keeping with a commitment made by 193 nations in September 2016, he challenges world leaders to keep up to their promise. It is my heartfelt hope this spirit will guide the process that in the course of 2018 will lead the United Nations to draft and approve two Global Compacts, one for safe, orderly and regular migration and the other for refugees. As shared agreements at a global level, these compacts will provide a framework for policy proposals and practical measures. For this reason, they need to be inspired by compassion, foresight and courage, to take advantage of every opportunity to advance the peace-building process. Only in this way can the realism required of international politics avoid surrendering to cynicism and to the globalization of indifference.
Our common home has been very much in the vision of Pope Francis: the way we treat it, nurture it; the way we care for another very specially for the excluded like migrants and refugees. Every human years for peace and so do the migrants and refugees. As we enter a New Year, we all need to do our best to make peace more tangible. Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating the excluded: migrants, refugees and others forcibly displaced will surely lead to that peace we all pursue!
---
*Indian human rights activist, currently based in Lebanon and engaged with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in the Middle East on advocacy and communications

Comments

TRENDING

Noam Chomsky, top scholars ask NRIs to take stand on human rights violations in India

Counterview Desk
Renowned world scholars, including Noam Chomsky, James Petras, Angela Davis, Fredric Jameson, Bruno Latour, Ilan Pappe, Judith Butler, among others, have issued a statement castigating the Narendra Modi government for allegedly creating an environment of fear through arrests, intimidation and violence.

Actionable programme for 2019 polls amidst lynch mobs, caste violence, hate mongering

Counterview Desk
Reclaiming the Republic, a civil rights network, has released a document prepared under the chairmanship of Justice AP Shah (retired) -- and backed, among others, by Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan, bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander, economist Prabhat Patnaik, Right to transparency activist Anjali Bhardwaj and social scientist Yogendra Yadav  (click HERE for full list) -- with the "aim" of putting forth policy and legislative reforms needed to “protect” and “strengthen” the Constitutional safeguards for India’s democratic polity.

India under Modi "promoted" crony business, protected financial fraudsters, fueled bigotry

By Sandeep* and Rahul Pandey**
Narendra Modi's ascension to power was accompanied with jubilation and expectation. His supporters were expecting an end to era of corruption and initiation of good governance which was described as Achche Din. His party's adherence to idea of nationalism was believed to make India a vibrant country and guide India to be a world leader. He gave the slogan of 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas' conveying that his government was for all.
Corruption The government system is infested with corruption. A minimum of 10% is siphoned off from government schemes and projects, some of which goes back to political party in power and remaining is pocketed by various administrative, executive and political functionaries. This corruption continues and has increased. Now an additional Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) person working as Official on Special Duty or some equivalent position in every government department also has a share in this booty.
The Narendra M…

Inviting Rajapaksa to India "insult" to 1,40,000 Tamils killed by Sri Lankan army

Counterview Desk
In the context of Sri Lankan opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa being invited in India, about 75 human rights activists*, claiming to be concerned about rights violations during the civil war in Sri Lanka, especially in 2009, have joined together to express their dissent through a statement.

Modi wants Pak govt be held responsible for JeM terror strike: World doesn't agree

By Sandeep Pandey*
I went to participate in a candle light homage paying event at Dr BR Ambedkar's statue organised by about 200 Dalit students on Hazratganj main crossing in Lucknow on February 16, 2019 evening, two days after the dastardly terrorist act in Pulwana, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), in which 44 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel was killed.

Post-advisory, Govt of India appears reluctant to ban e-cigarettes, "harmful" to kids

By Rajiv Shah
Is the Government of India dilly-dallying over the issue of banning e-cigarettes, which have been declared by anti-tobacco activists across the world as providing “an entryway to nicotine addiction”, especially among the kids? It would seem so, if the latest developments are any guide.

A Godse legacy? BJP rulers have "refrained" from calling Gandhi Father of the Nation

By Dr Hari Desai*
What an agony! On one hand, the entire India is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but on the other side, so-called Hindu Mahasabha members have been found mock-enacting the killing of the Mahatma and celebrating the murder by distributing sweets!

No aadhaar, no ration? Hard blow by Gujarat govt on poor and marginalized

By Pankti Jog*
Only those who have aadhaar registration and linked it with ration card will get ration from a Public Distribution System (PDS) shop. This decision of the Gujarat government has hit very badly thousands of poor and marginalized communities of Gujarat, especially during the drought year.

Not just Indian women engineers, men too face sexual harassment at workplace: US study

By Rajiv Shah
A recent research, carried out jointly by two US-based non-profit organizations, Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and Center for WorkLife Law (WLL), based at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, has found that 45% of women engineers as against 28% of men engineers complained that it was perceived as “inappropriate when women argued at work, even when it was work-related.”

Anti-liquor march: Women padyatris "resolve" to occupy Karnataka state assembly

By Abhay, Swarna Bhat*
At a huge public convention held at Siddaganga Mutt on the Republic Day, January 26, 2019, in the presence of Sanehalli Sri Panditaradhya Swamiji, padyatris of the Madya Nishedha Andolana decided to intensify the ongoing liquor ban movement. A resolution passed at the convention, in which thousands of rural women joined in, the marching women declared that on reaching Bengaluru will “occupy Vidhan Soudha” on Mahatma Gandhi’s martyrdom day, January 30.